Obama Taps Joe Biden for VP – Storybook, Man

Barack Obama has listened to David Brooks and chosen Joe Biden as his running mate.

How the Press is Covering the News

CNN: “Obama chooses Sen. Joe Biden to be running mate

Biden chosen as Obama's VP running mateSen. Barack Obama has selected Delaware Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate, according to his official Web site and a text message the campaign sent to supporters on Saturday. “Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee,” the text message, sent at around 3 a.m. ET, said.

“Joe and I will appear for the first time as running mates this afternoon in Springfield, Illinois — the same place this campaign began more than 19 months ago,” Obama said in an e-mail sent to supporters Saturday morning. “I’m excited about hitting the campaign trail with Joe, but the two of us can’t do this alone,” he wrote. ” We need your help to keep building this movement for change.”

Liz Sidoti and Nedra Pickler, AP/Breitbart: Obama taps Biden to be running mate

Biden, 65, has twice sought the White House, and is a Catholic with blue-collar roots, a generally liberal voting record and a reputation as a long-winded orator.

Across more than 30 years in the Senate, he has served at various times not only as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee but also as head of the Judiciary Committee, with its jurisdiction over anti-crime legislation, Supreme Court nominees and Constitutional issues.

In selecting Biden, Obama passed over several other potential running mates, none more prominent than former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, his tenacious rival in dozens of primaries and caucuses.

Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny, NYT, “Obama Chooses Biden as Running Mate

Senator Barack Obama has chosen Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware to be his running mate, turning to a leading authority on foreign policy and a longtime Washington hand to fill out the Democratic ticket, Mr. Obama announced in text and e-mail messages early Saturday.

Mr. Obama’s selection ended a two-month search that was conducted almost entirely in secret. It reflected a critical strategic choice by Mr. Obama: To go with a running mate who could reassure voters about gaps in his resume, rather than to pick someone who could deliver a state or reinforce Mr. Obama’s message of change.

Chris Cillizza, WaPo’s The Fix, “Obama Picks Biden as V.P.

Barack Obama confers with Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Biden chairs.Barack Obama has chosen Delaware Sen. Joe Biden as his vice presidential running mate, a pick designed to shore up the Illinois senator’s foreign policy credentials in advance of the November election against John McCain.

Biden’s selection was confirmed by a Democratic source after an evening of speculation that centered on the Delaware senator when it was reported that the other top contenders were no longer under consideration. Biden had been considered the frontrunner for the job in recent weeks — a position confirmed by a last-minute, unscheduled trip last weekend to meet with the president of Georgia.

Joe Biden:  The Right Choice?

The early media narrative is set:  Obama went with Biden to shore up his lack of experience, especially in the realm of foreign policy.   AP’s Ron Fournier, in a piece headlined “Analysis: Biden pick shows lack of confidence,” argues this is a bad idea.

The picks say something profound about Obama: For all his self-confidence, the 47-year-old Illinois senator worried that he couldn’t beat Republican John McCain without help from a seasoned politician willing to attack. The Biden pick is the next logistical step in an Obama campaign that has become more negative — a strategic decision that may be necessary but threatens to run counter to his image.


[T]he question is whether Biden’s depth counters Obama’s inexperience — or highlights it?

After all, Biden is anything but a change agent, having been in office longer than half of all Americans have been alive. Longer than McCain.

And he talks too much. On the same day he announced his second bid for the presidency, Biden found himself explaining why he had described Obama as “clean.”

And there’s the 2007 ABC interview in which Biden said he would stand by an earlier statement that Obama was not ready to serve as president. It seems Obama is worried that some voters are starting to agree.

I tend to agree with Fournier here.  Even though he’s among the most liberal Democrats in the Senate, Biden is one of my favorites.  His tendency to shoot from the hip makes him more human.  Further, I think he meets the “Ready on Day One” test.

The downside, however, is that he highlights Obama’s weaknesses.  Biden has been in the Senate, making weighty public policy decisions, since Obama was a schoolboy.  The campaign will therefore be faced with the inevitable question:  Shouldn’t this ticket be flipped?

Then again, the same was said of the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2000.  The difference, though, is that people have an intuitive — if perhaps dubious — sense that running a state is better preparation for the presidency than Congress or the bureaucracy.

Obama doesn’t have that fallback.  His whole candidacy is based on personal qualities — youth, energy, smarts, charisma, passion — and a sense that he’s Not Another Politician. As a wise man once put it, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

I’m not sure he wins if he goes down the same old road of attack politics.   His hopes for the presidency ride on, well, Hope.

Other Blogger Reactions

Here’s a sampling from my feed reader, in rough order of their posting on the subject:

  • Jim Geraghty, Campaign Spot: “I can’t recall a running mate who immediately before being selected told reporters, “I’m not the guy.” Unless Team Obama told him he was out, and then changed their mind, Biden began his role as Obama’s running mate by lying to the press.”
  • Taegan Goddard, Political Wire, notes that Biden got “immediate protection” from the Secret Service even before the pick was announced.
  • Stephen Green, VodkaPundit: “I’m jumping the gun here, but I’ll go ahead and coin the word right now…O’Biden. Change you can believe in — because it’s been in Washington since 1973 already.”
  • Richard Fernandez, Belmont Club: “Both Obama and Biden are Senators, and neither has held an executive position of any magnitude.”
  • Orin Kerr: “Being from Delaware myself, I think that’s pretty cool; I’ve liked Senator Biden ever since he spoke to my 7th grade class during our class trip to Washington.”
  • Trollhammer, Java Report: “Praise the Lord and pass the popcorn. This is going to be more fun than Carter/Mondale ’80.”
  • Ezra Klein: This pick “suggests the Obama campaign is ready to take the foreign policy fight to McCain.”
  • Shawn Brimley, Democracy Arsenal: “Senator Biden has long been a leader that understands the centrality of foreign policy issues and has shown clear leadership as Chairman of the SFRC. His series of comprehensive hearings on Iraq, Afghanistan, and numerous other key issues provided context to complex issues, and accountability to a White House that prefered to keep America in the dark on central issues of statecraft.”
  • Genghis, Ace of Spades HQ, “While you’re waiting breathlessly for the Secret Service to arrive at Sen. Biden’s residence to arrest his hair plugs for making terroristic threats against the presumptive Democrat(ic) nominee for the U.S. Presidency, you might as well read this story.”
  • Greg Ransom, PrestoPundit: “The insufferable self-regard of this ticket is going to set some sort of record, even among self-obsessed politicians.  Have we ever had two candidates who so love to hear themselves talk?”
  • Marc Lynch, Abu Aardvark: “I’m thrilled about the pick of Joe Biden.   I never had a strong VP preference, but Biden was by far my favorite of the short-list that emerged over the last week. . . .  Smart, experienced and tough guy who will complement Obama in many ways.”
  • Steve Benen, Political Animal: “I’ll have plenty of commentary and analysis in a bit, but I thought I’d get the thread going. Pleased with the pick? Relieved it’s not Bayh? Does Biden improve Obama’s chances in November?”
  • Dale Franks has an excellent roundup of pre-announcement discussion of Biden and Biden quotes over at  QandO.  And then there’s this, from Jon at Exurban League:

Best of Joe Biden

Some selected Joe Biden posts from the OTB archives.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Democracy, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anthony says:

    I find myself somewhat underwhelmed, though in many ways I suppose the pick makes sense.

    There’s been a lot of coverage of the fact that Biden is a droning, pompous, self-important windbag. However, it seems to me that his impact might well – barring any massive gaffs – be focused more than anything on his performance in the Vice Presidential debating. It seems to me that in this format he might actually be pretty good, especially if he’s up against Romney. When he’s got his game on, Biden can be very effective in this format, from what I can tell.

    On the other hand, it’s hard to argue other than that this is a pick designed to compensate for weaknesses rather than accentuate the positive.

    We’ll see, I suppose.

  2. Anthony says:

    “I can’t recall a running mate who immediately before being selected told reporters, “I’m not the guy.” Unless Team Obama told him he was out, and then changed their mind, Biden began his role as Obama’s running mate by lying to the press.”

    Oh, please.

  3. Jim Henley says:

    The question to my mind is whether Biden amplifies the campaign’s core message – that Barack Obama is clean, articulate, bright and nice-looking – or undercuts it?

  4. James Joyner says:

    The question to my mind is whether Biden amplifies the campaign’s core message – that Barack Obama is clean, articulate, bright and nice-looking – or undercuts it?

    That’s exactly right.

    On the one hand, the contrast with Biden amplifies the message. He’s got fewer skeltons in his closet, is less likely to say stupid things in public, and has better hair.

    On the other, the ticket is decidedly less young and change oriented.

  5. This is going to be a strange race. Anything you say about one half of the ticket tears down the other half of the ticket.

    ‘Judgement is the most important issue and my coming out against the Iraq war (and then being for it and then being against it again) shows that I have the judgement needed to be the president’ – Biden correctly voted for the Iraq war. So why did Obama pick someone who by Obama’s thinking shows he doesn’t have the judgment to be president.

    ’30 plus years of experience in the senate, meetings around the globe with world leaders, that is the sort of experience needed to be ready to be president on day one” – So freshman senator Obama who couldn’t be bothered to hold senate committee hearings on NATO (but hey, everything is perfect with NATO, just look at how well our NATO allies are handling things like Afghanistan and the invasion of Georgia) doesn’t stack up very well against McCain if this is the yard stick.

    I will say this for the pick, just as Cheney did his part in 2000 and 2004 and delivered Wyoming for Bush, I think that Biden can do his part and deliver Delaware for Obama. After having one or the other on the democratic ticket fail to carry their home state in 2000 and 2004, the democrats at least are going to avoid that embarrassment.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    I like Joe Biden and have for quite a while. I think he’s probably the Obama campaign’s best pick as a running mate.

    However, I think the pick presents a few landmines for the campaign. First, Sen. Biden is only a few years younger than Sen. McCain. It will be harder to make the argument that Sen. McCain is too old to be president with a straight face with Sen. Biden on the ticket.

    But second and more importantly Sen. Biden voted “Aye” on the Authorization to Use Military Force Against Iraq. Sen. Obama is running a campaign based on judgment rather than on resume and I’m afraid he needed to double down on that rather than defuse it. Is Sen. Biden’s judgment reliable or not? Can you support Sen. Biden’s judgment without questioning Sen. Obama’s?

  7. Brian says:

    I love these fews days after the running mates are announced when we pretend that this is important, that the #2’s will make a difference. It’s just like how every four years we pretend that the Olympics still have integrity.

    If Russia is in Georgia two months from now and Americans are once again defense-oriented and nervous about Obama’s lack of experience does anyone really believe that having Biden as his running mate will calm those fears? The only people for whom this will ultimately make a difference are those who are already locked in on Obama and want to rationalize choosing a lightweight.

  8. Anthony says:

    “The only people for whom this will ultimately make a difference are those who are already locked in on Obama and want to rationalize choosing a lightweight.”

    My problem is that, although I’ve been a McCain man since 2000, I actually haven’t seen any of this famed Foreign Policy Experience on display in the campaign, at least not substantively. It’s just been mood music. Biden’s stances seem to be a lot more carefully thought through and have a better grasp of the facts, consistent with having done a lot of committee work, even if I don’t agree with him. For all the talk of his much vaunted experience, all McCain seems to be offering from where I’m sitting is some sort of Don’t Bother Me With Facts, I’m Listening To My Gut hawkishness. Which some might argue is not analogous to being a “heavyweight”.

    That said, I’m not saying that’s not enough to get him elected.

  9. Fence says:

    Neil Kinnock, welcome back

  10. Pug says:

    I guess if we’re going all the way back to Neil Kinnock we might as well make a few stops at Charles Keating along the way.

  11. Mike P says:

    Aren’t you basically saying Obama’s VP pick was going to be a lose/lose? You say above that:

    “The downside, however, is that he highlights Obama’s weaknesses. Biden has been in the Senate, making weighty public policy decisions, since Obama was a schoolboy.”

    Virtually anyone Obama picked that was of roughly his age would have also probably made the lack of experience question more of an issue (Kaine), and the pick of a person like the relatively unknown to most, Gov. Sebelius, would have led to a situation where people really had to do their homework to find out more about both Obama and his running mate. Byah would have maybe helped with the PUMA crowd, but would have set off the progressive base in a way that none of the other potential running mates would have. Given all of that, Biden makes the best sense and I have to say that everyone who is saying this shores up Obama’s foreign policy weakness seem to want to continually overlook that Obama was right about the war from the start and that the administration (and McCain) now agree with Obama’s position about Afghanistan and now the Bush administration is setting a timetable for withdrawl for combat troops for Iraq. Seems like the young dude is doing just fine for himself in that realm, don’t you think? Hell, the administration has even called for talking to our enemies, something Obama has advocated.

  12. mike says:

    I thought Obama was running on “change” (although has not stated what he is changing) but then he picks a Washington insider who represents the SQ. I figured he would go with Kaine and bring the message of a new generation of leaders and changing the course of Wash politics. it seems he went the other way.

    I wonder how he will deal with the current McCain ad in which it depicts Biden ripping on Obama and praising McCain

  13. carpeicthus says:

    Ron Fournier is a disgrace.

  14. carpeicthus says:

    Here’s one argument against the ticket being flipped — they ran against each other, and Obama spanked him hard. There’s no argument there. Don’t ever give in to agreeing with Fournier, you’re not nearly as much of a hack.

  15. bains says:

    So James, will Biden make you more likely to support Obama come November?

  16. James Joyner says:

    So James, will Biden make you more likely to support Obama come November?

    I’m a committed voter and not the target audience. It’s the mushy undecideds that the campaigns are after, as well as trying to energize their bases.

    Now, if Biden were on top of the ticket against, say, Mike Huckabee, then I’d likely be up for grabs. But I’m not sure McCain could make a VP choice bad enough to make me seriously consider voting for Obama.

  17. bains says:

    Big Tent Democrat of TalkLeft:

    Think what you want about Biden, and I think that given Obama’s stubborn and wrongheaded unwillingness to pick Hillary Clinton and put a lock on the election, Biden was the best choice politically that Obama was willing to make (imagine the political disaster if he had picked Sebelius). But the rollout of Biden was disastrously bad, unless the idea is to make sure as few people know as possible. Half of the country will not know until Monday when the Convention starts. Obama should have announced Biden last Monday. An F for the Obama campaign on the mechanics of the rollout.

  18. bains says:

    I guess what surprises me is the sudden seriousness that Obama supporters have adopted. For example, your fellow blogger Alex Knapp attempted to show that Barack Obama had better experience than John McCain. But today, comes the tacit acknowledgment that Obama needs real help in the experience department. Other than TalkLeft and other admittedly pro-Hillary sites, the left-o-sphere is uncommonly somber in their assessment of Joe Biden. What happened to Hope and Change?

  19. One Bit Shy says:

    I know we’re not supposed to think about anything but the campaign right now, but maybe, just like Bush before him, Obama selected the guy he wanted in the office of vice president.

    I mean, it’s not like vice president candidates actually affect elections. Has there been anyone besides LBJ in the past 100 years?

    But for those determined to derive campaign meaning from the selection, then I would suggest that Biden’s most important attribute by a great deal is that he’s catholic.

  20. Anthony says:

    “I would suggest that Biden’s most important attribute by a great deal is that he’s catholic.”

    I’d say this is pretty shrewd. That said:

    – Aren’t Catholics trending Democrat anyway?
    – I’ve already read a couple of comments from the Right along the lines that there’ll be a push to try to get Biden denied communion in order to embarrass him, as happened with Kerry.

  21. Gypsy Man says:

    The media seem fairly positive on the pick but it looks like a bad one. Obama and Biden have some big policy differences that McCain will exploit. Obama didn’t want a yes man but he ended up with a no man.

    Not WRIGHT for America has a hilarious spoof post about Obama debating Biden instead of McCain. http://www.notwrightforamerica.com. That sums up the problems with the Biden pick.

  22. Anthony says:

    There does seem to be some fertile ground there. However, isn’t McCain going to face a similar problem, especially if he picks Romney?

    Incidentally, someone made the point yesterday that it would probably make sense for McCain to pick a female running mate. I think I agree. Apart from looking more “alternative” than the Obama ticket on the surface, it might make it more difficult for Biden to deploy his big guns in a debate. Rightly or wrongly, what might look amusing and sharp if deployed against Romney might well come over as bullying and pompous if deployed against someone like Palin.

  23. Brian K says:

    What happened to Hope and Change?

    I’m inclined to agree. Biden is clearly the conservative political move. A Sebelius pick would have emphasized change. The Biden move is sort of hypocritical. I’m unimpressed.